Vin stepped out of the shadows and appeared in the hall outside his rooms. Well what were once his rooms before he’d disappeared. He stared at the door, wondering if he should go in and see if they were still as he’d left them. He’d wanted to leave this place for good, but despite the madness gnawing at what little sanity he had left he remembered the reason he was there. A fresh heap of guilt piled on his shoulders even as he seethed.
’What was Seri thinking? Why would she do something like that?’ He thought angrily as he continued staring at the door without seeing it. No one answered his thoughts except the rhythmic chanting of the madness demanding he kill and devour.
“Why.” He whispered to himself as he clenched his fists again beginning to pace up and down the hall.
“It’s not like it was exactly the sane thing to do. She’d had to have lost her damn mind.” Even as he whispered to himself Vin could feel his body starting to relax. He knew someone would eventually happen by and see him talking to himself, not only thinking he was crazy but knowing he could be dangerous. He suspected that not a lot had changed since he left and somehow he knew if he were to open his door that everything would still be as he left it. He wasn’t sure if he could deal with the sameness. To be reminded of a time when Vincent was just a phone call away, young and innocent living with his mother.
Vin froze as yet more horror struck him. Vincent’s mother, Edie, didn’t know what happened. In his grief and subsequent killing spree hadn’t spared her a thought. He hesitated before starting to pace again. He was trying to decide if he should go now or wait till this was over. Again he looked at the door as if it might provide an answer and again it was still a door. He growled under his breath and threw it open only to stop short of walking in.
On the bed were the clothes he’d shed after the mission to save Serina, but that wasn’t what had tripped him up. Sitting silently on the edge of his bed, looking at a picture that usually sat on his dresser, was Edie. He took a moment to examine her closely. The silver hair he’d always adored was streaked with purple, not a wholly negative thing. It was something she should have done before, he liked it. Vin took a step into the room still watching her, she knew he was there but didn’t acknowledge him..
“I haven’t heard from our son in months.” She murmured as she ran a finger down the picture, she still refused to look at him. “What happened.”
Vin didn’t know what to say. Edie had figured out that something had happened to her son but she needed to hear it. He wasn’t sure if he should sit with her or stand back, so he stayed where he was. It must have taken him too long to answer her because she looked up with a snap of her head and her mismatched eyes glistened with tears.
“Tell me.” She whispered and Vin felt himself crumble again as he went to her. He fell to his knees and looked up at her as she waited.
“He…” Vin started and swallowed back a sob. “I made a deal with Nicholas, my life for his. Somehow Vincent figured out how to wake me but didn’t know the consequences.” He blurted out the explanation the best he could before his body was wracked with sobs and he placed his head in his hands.
Edie didn’t move or speak as Vin sobbed quietly into his hands. He suspected she was in shock and was trying to process what she’d heard.
“Do you know who did this?” Edie whispered dangerously and Vin looked up at her and shook his head. Her eyes, one a deep purple and the other black, were hard even as tears still fell from them. “And Vincent is dead?”
He flinched at the word and nodded his answer.
“He didn’t know what waking me up would do.” He murmured as he looked away from her, another helping of guilt piled on.
“I knew something was wrong.” She whispered. “I knew it. I begged you not to make that deal with Nicholas.” She started then stopped herself. Vin could feel the weight of her stare and looked at her again.
“I did what I could to save the two of you. If I hadn’t... he’d have died then. I didn’t know Vincent would get help to get me back.” Immediately Vin regretted saying it but he couldn’t take it back. He expected Edie to be enraged, to demand to know who’d helped her son to his death. Instead there was a look of horror written across her face and he knew that she’d had a part in it as well as Serina.
“What did you do?” He moaned, trying to keep the accusation out of his voice as the monster inside him reared his head and growled dangerously.
“He asked for some things, just trinkets. He knew I’d do anything for him, and I did.” Edie’s eyes overflowed with tears again. Vin could see the guilt he felt, building in her as well and he knew that he’d been harsh with Serina.
“You weren’t the only one to help him with no questions asked.” Vin murmured as he pushed to his feet. He hadn’t decided what he was going to do yet but he needed to be moving. He started pacing as Edie watched him, bewildered.
“I have to figure this out.” He murmured to himself as he walked across the room again and turned.
“Figure what out?” Edie said from the bed where she’d yet to move. Her voice was small and defeated as she hugged the picture to herself.
“Nicholas, he wanted me gone… was eager for it. And I took his deal willingly to make sure Vincent was safe. I need to know why he did it, and if he was the one to take Persephone.” Vin said quietly and turned from Edie to open the door. He hesitated then turned back. “You can stay here if you like, it would probably be safer than in the shadows.”
Edie didn’t argue, she nodded and stared at the picture. Vin turned away and opened the door. He stepped into the hall and pulled the door shut behind him only to be greeted by Serina. He stared at her tear stained face and felt a stab of guilt for the way he’d treated her.
“You…” She said and he realized she was seething. Instead of trying to explain himself he met her anger with his own.
“Yeah… me… what of it?” He snapped as he stepped around her and walked down the hall. Serina stood there watching him as he walked past her and continued on. She was in shock that he didn’t even bother to stop and talk to her.
Serina looked around for something, anything to throw at him and the closest thing was a vase. She picked it up, dumping the water and fresh flowers onto the floor, and stalked after him. Once he was in sight she chucked the vase at his head. As it shattered against him, he stopped and stood with his back to her, shoulders heaving.
“Talk to me!” Serina demanded.
“You don’t want to hear anything I’ve got to say at the moment.” Vin growled without turning around. Serina growled and went after him, but before he could spin around she kicked the back of his knees causing him to land on them, hard. Vin rolled as quickly as he dropped and grabbed Serina’s legs, forcing her to the floor with him. He pinned her there and stared down at her. All that reflected from her black eyes was the monster he knew he was becoming.
“I didn’t know.” She bit out as she glared at him.
“Then why wouldn’t you ask?” He growled.
“Because he reminded me of you.” She spat and he blinked.
“What do you mean?” He asked quietly but didn’t let her up.
“He looked like you… he acted like you and he even started wearing your old clothes. It was too much to see him when I’d lost you.” She admitted angrily then looked away as a tear slid down her cheek. Vin sat back on his knees and let her sit up. She rubbed her shoulder where he’d pinned her and frowned at him.
“Why should it matter if I was gone?” He asked quietly trying not to look at her.
“I lost my entire life the last night I saw you. You of all people, the one that I considered my brother, left with very few words and never came back. I lost everything in one day.” She whispered the last words and kept her head down.
“Well…” Vin started but didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t been prepared for her answer, nor the overwhelming feeling taking him over.
“I didn’t know.” He muttered and they stared at one another.
“Yeah well, you didn’t really stick around long enough for me to talk to you.” She said as she shoved at his shoulder halfheartedly. Vin looked down and sighed. When he looked at Serina again she was watching him closely. For the first time he really looked at her and saw a completely different person sat in front of him.
“You’ve changed.” He muttered as he noticed the spark of insanity in her that he’d been battling in himself. She rolled her eyes and sat Indian-style.
“So glad you noticed.” She muttered as she picked at her bootlaces. Vin watched and mirrored her. As he pulled his feet under him he rested his elbows on his knees. He’d let some of his rage go as he stared at her. The woman had gone through a lot and lost a lot of herself in doing so.
“I didn’t exactly mean to leave for all this time.” He admitted defensively.
“Yeah well, you did and I want to know why.” She shot back with venom in her voice.
“I made a deal with another demon named Nicholas. Edie and Vincent were so in debt to him that, as payment, he was going to take Vincent as a slave.” Vin paused as he fought back a dark growl that was building.
“I fought my way out of that life, literally, and I wasn’t going to let my son be taken back to it. When Nicholas enforced his deal with Edie and she wouldn’t let Vincent go… Nicholas cursed him, he was dying. So I made my own deal to replace his life with mine. A life for a life.” Serina sat straight backed as she listened, not daring to interrupt him.
“Well…” Vin continued softly. “I obviously wasn’t able to get back to anyone to tell them what was going to happen. Hence no one knew what had happened to me. I think Edie might have had an idea since our son miraculously returned to full health.” He smirked and let it fall slowly.
“No one wanted to think you were dead. That’s why we left everything the way you left it. I think they were afraid to say it around me.” She shrugged and looked away again. “I haven’t been the easiest person to live with over the past few years.” She admitted quietly. Serina had never said it aloud although she knew it to be true. Vin had been the only person in either world she’d ever tell something that deep and dark about herself. Until tonight he hadn’t been around for her to bare her soul to, therefore she’d barely admitted it to herself let alone others.
“I heard you went a little schizo.” Vin said with the ghost of a smile.
“Maybe just a little over the edge.” She said with the same ghost flitted across her lips and disappearing.
“What a fucked up pair we make.” He murmured and leaned his back against the wall. Serina let out a short laugh and shook her head, letting her hair spill over her shoulder and hide half her face.
“Weren’t we always?” She asked and grew quiet again.
“How bad has it been?” Vin asked as he addressed the awkward tension between them.
“Bad. Most days in the beginning I’d thought about killing myself, but never could manage it. As time passed my suicidal thoughts turned homicidal. I’ve been tracking down…” She paused and gave him an apologetic look. “I’ve been tracking down Darklings that worked for Diana. I have hoped to find where Ruavia was hidden.”
Vin raised an eyebrow as he considered this then shrugged.
“As far as I’m concerned those aren’t my people anymore. Once they did Diana’s bidding they became traitors. And as for Ruavia… I’m sure one of these days she’ll be found and you’ll have your revenge.”
Serina nodded then looked at him.
“It’s not so much revenge as finishing what I started. I started with Tanyl…” Serina cringed inwardly as Tanyl’s death scene played before her eyes again and she remembered the animal instinct she’d felt. A gleeful rush of adrenaline as she crouched over her kill was short lived when Sam had fallen moments later.
“Adamar was and is still a friend but I am going to finish with Ruavia. I have no wish for revenge, just need to tie up loose ends.” She smirked without humor as her eyes glittered with madness that Vin knew all too well and he nodded.
“I wouldn’t be the one to stop you. I’m kind of on my own little revenge kick at the moment.” He said as he picked at the carpet.
“I’ve noticed.” She murmured and laid her head against the wall and stared up at the ceiling.
“I don’t know if it has anything to do with my personal vendetta but Sephie was taken by someone from the shadow realm.” Vin said quietly and waited for Serina’s response.
“When did this happen?” She asked in a flat voice, devoid of any emotion. She had become strictly business.
“Not too long before someone decked me for being alive.” He answered as he rubbed his jaw. His attempt at humor was a poor one, and it was met with a stony silence. Serina didn’t smile but he could see her eyes lighten ever so slightly.
“I’m assuming Blinx and Scar went to talk to James about it.” She asked as she pushed to her feet and held out her hand to help Vin to his. He looked at her hand noting that it was more scarred than it had been, then took it levering himself to his feet. He stood there looking down at Serina, examining her closely.
Her eyes were a little more tired, and he could see she had faint scars running along her brow and down her jawline. Vin wondered how long they’d been there, and how hard she’d been on herself since her life was turned upside down. He reached out to touch her face and she jerked back, making the motion a turn into a stiff but casual walk down the hall.
“I think so, yes.” Vin blurted out as he caught up with Serina, who was now halfway down the hall.
“And do we have any idea where she might be held… assuming she is still alive.” Serina murmured as she clasped her hands behind her back and continued to walk in the direction of the entrance hall.
“No and I am assuming she’s alive. She was trying to cure me of my darkness, and apparently someone doesn’t want that. My guess is Nicholas. Why is what I don’t know.” He mimicked her stance and clasped his hands behind his back as he looked sideways at her. “All I do know is that I have to get her back. I can’t have another life on my conscience.”
Serina looked down and nodded. “I know how you feel.” She looked up again as they reached the front foyer that wasn’t as lively as usual. Then again it was the middle of the day and being mostly made of beings that couldn’t go into the sun, it was expected to be a little empty.
“Everyone should be resting by this time.” Vin murmured as he looked around then pointedly at Serina.
“I don’t sleep much anymore.” She answered as she looked away, she turned and went back into the conference room where she’d sat with James and Patrick only hours before. Where she’d met Alec. The thought made her pause with her hand on the door knob. Vin noticed her hesitation and cleared his throat.
“We don’t have to go to such a formal setting to talk.” He offered and he could see a tinge of pink stain Serina’s cheek and he furrowed his brow.
“It’s nothing important.” She snapped a little too quickly for it to be out of anger, she was embarrassed. She then swung the door open nearly hitting him and strode in. To her surprise, James was still sitting at the table reading. He looked up over the pages as the doors slammed shut behind both Vin and Serina.
“Well, this is interesting.” James murmured as he set the book aside and Vin inwardly cursed himself for not speaking to James yet.
“Sire.” Vin said and nodded his head respectfully as Serina perched herself on the table to James’ right, in front of the chair where she’d been seated earlier. James scoffed as he sat back resting his elbows on the arms of his chair.
“Where in the world have you been, Vintgar.” James asked, giving Vin’s full name emphasis.
“Dead, sire.” Vin murmured as he stood straight. James looked him over with a critical eye then smirked.
“Well you look good for a dead man. And stop being so damned formal, it’s good to see you man.” James got to his feet and extended his hand with a genuine smile. Vin took his hand and shook it firmly.
“I assure you that I look better than I am.” Vin said quietly and James’ smile fell. The serious look in Vin’s eyes were enough to sober anyone immediately.
“What’s happened?” James asked as he released Vin’s hand and sat back again, seamlessly falling back into his role of leader.
“It’s a long story and nothing I can rectify now, but…” Vin glanced at Serina who had crossed her legs and leaned back on her hands. She looked casual but he knew she was listening intently.
“But my concern at the moment is finding Persephone.”
James frowned as he rubbed a hand over his chin. “The little demon girl?” He asked.
“Yes. She’s been taken by someone from the shadow realm. I suspect it’s the same demon that’s kept me detained all these years.”
James quirked an eyebrow. “And which one would that be?” He asked, his voice edged.
“His name is Nicholas.” Serina chimed in as she sat forward again. James glanced at her then back to Vin.
“Nicholas? Thee Nicholas? How could he cross the worlds?” James asked with a frown. “He’s ancient or as close as they come. The last time I checked they couldn’t come to the mortal plain.”
Vin nodded, affirming that they were, in fact, talking about the same demon.
“I don’t know how he does it but he can project his image and consciousness into this world for short periods of time. That’s how he managed to make a deal with me.” Vin clasped his hands behind his back and started to pace again.
“You made a deal with him? What did you gain from your temporary death?” James asked and sat forward as he leaned his elbows on the desk and steepled his fingers under his chin.
“My son was dying, he offered me a deal I literally was unable to refuse. My life for my son’s, and I took it readily.”
James thought this over then nodded. “I can’t say I wouldn’t have made the same choice… if I could have.” Serina stiffened at the implications of James’ words.
“But, like I said, the more pressing issue is to find Sephie. If she’s still alive.”
James nodded and checked his watch.
“We’re not going to accomplish much today, but I know there is an urgency that we need to address. I’ll have a team start researching any leads as to where Nicholas could be.” James said quietly. His formal tone had successfully ended the conversation, the dismissal was implied. Vin looked at Serina who nodded as she stood. James had made a few notes and pulled out his cellphone and started texting with frightening speed. He was relaying orders to the ‘team’ he’d mentioned.
“Get some rest.” He commanded to the both of them but looked pointedly at Serina. With that he was done speaking and Vin and Serina left the room without another word.
Serina had left Vin to his room and to Edie. They had a lot of catching up to do and even more grieving. She finally made it to her bedroom after wandering the halls for longer than she’d intended. She closed the door and breathed in the smell of her things. She could feel the tension roll off her in a wave that left her weary. It was only noon so she’d have plenty of rest, as James commanded. For the moment all she wanted to do was relax. Funny enough her emotions weren’t as frayed as she’d expected them to be. She ruffled her hair as she walked across the room and stretched her back. Serina actually felt, if she dared to think it, good. Not sure what the cause of it was she sat down in her big comfy chair and kicked her legs over the arm. She knew she should sleep but that was something that would come when she felt like it. She flipped on the television that was mounted above her fireplace and mindlessly flipped through the channels. Nothing but early afternoon news and soap operas were on and they weren’t of any interest to her.
“I don’t know why I keep this thing in here.” She murmured to herself as she turned it off again. As she tossed the remote on the foot stool, she looked around the room. Usually she was in more of a brooding mood and nothing would stop her, but now… now she was, for lack of a better term, alive again. She hadn’t been sure when it’d happened but she felt like she could breathe without sobbing, she could speak without screaming. She didn’t feel the overwhelming pressure of guilt hindering her every move. She was Serina again, somehow.
She hopped to her feet and started pacing around the room. She wasn’t afraid to go to sleep anymore, just the excitement of this change inside her had her more alert and awake than she’d been in a long time. She walked over to the books and scanned the titles hoping to find something interesting but nothing caught her eye. She again felt like she could do anything but there was nothing she could think to do, so she sat down and tried to breathe deep. Finally she decided that sleep would be the best thing for her. She unlaced her boots and slid them off then laid back on her bed. Serina hadn’t realized how exhausted she’d been, it had been so long since she actually wanted to go to sleep. She dared to think that she was a little happy, something she’d not experienced in years. Vin, a man she’d called her brother was literally back from the dead and...
“I have a damned crush on death.” She thought out loud just to hear herself say it. Another thing she’d not done in a while happened, she smiled to herself. But before she could start on that train of thought she fell into a deep, blissfully dreamless sleep.
Serina woke to someone shaking her and her eyes flew open. She couldn’t make sense of why Patrick was standing over her with a panicked expression, or what he was saying. She squinted her eyes as someone flipped the lights on and coherent words came rushing at her.
“Serina! Wake up!” Patrick was shouting as he shook her again.
“I’m awake…” She muttered as she rubbed her eyes and tried to sit up.
“What’s wrong with you?” He asked as he helped her to sit up straight. She squinted and looked at him like he was crazy.
“What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with you? Coming into my bedroom and scaring the crap out of me. I shoulda punched you in the face.” She was ranting in a mumble as she stood and stretched her muscles out. She must have fallen asleep with her legs hung over the bed because she was stiff and sore from sleeping so oddly. The last thing she remembered was smiling and she did it again as she made her way to the bathroom.
“Seri, I was worried. You’ve been asleep for over twelve hours.” Patrick sounded concerned as he flopped down onto the edge of her bed. “I pounded on your door for nearly an hour before I came in and saw you…” He paused as he braced his hands on his knees. “You looked dead, Seri. Completely gone.”
Serina came back from the bathroom with a frown on her face as she tried to tame her matted hair.
“Ever think I was tired?” She asked as she gave up on her hair and sat next to him on the bed. Patrick gave her a deadpan look then rolled his eyes.
“Yes… my sister that hasn’t really slept in just about three years all of a sudden gets a blissful night’s sleep. Seems legit.” Sarcasm dripped from his words and Serina stuck her tongue out at him. Again Patrick was unamused.
“You seem a little off, Seri. What happened to you last night?” He was looking at her like she were a different person and she felt like a specimen under a microscope.
“Could you not look at me like that?” She complained as she stood again and started looking for a fresh set of clothes.
“Excuse me but I’m trying to determine if my sister has been abducted by aliens.”
“No, I’m not an alien… I’m pretty sure. Vin is back.” She said as she went into the bathroom and shut the door behind her.
Patrick was completely silent as she changed her clothes and managed to run a brush through her hair. She looked at it and frowned then pulled it up into a loose ponytail. When she opened the door again Patrick still sat on the edge of her bed but his face was stern.
“I’m sorry could you please repeat that last bit.” He asked, his expression remaining the same.
“I said Vin is back.” Serina repeated as she sat and slipped one of her boots on over her the leg of her jeans.
“That’s what I thought you said. And now I’m thinking you’ve completely lost your mind and are delusional.” He raised an eyebrow as she shrugged a shoulder.
“Ask James, or Blinx even. I’m not the only one that’s seen him. Scar is around here somewhere too. They showed up shortly after Alec left…” She realized what she’d just admitted and closed her eyes wishing she could take it back. Patrick, assumptions of a delusional sister gone, sat forward with his jaw falling open.
“After Alec left?” Patrick asked, shock making his words louder than he’d intended. Serina ignored his question and laced up her boot.
“Oh no, you’re not going to ignore me…” He jumped to his feet and crossed the room. He watched her as he tied her first boot painstakingly slow and he tapped his foot. Serina sighed and looked up as she pulled on her other boot.
“Nothing happened. We just talked… well mostly he talked and I stumbled over my words.” She said then smiled to herself again. She couldn’t figure out how she’d made this major turnaround after last night but she felt like herself again.
“And you say Vin’s back. Where’s he been?” Patrick asked quietly as he made his way back to his seat on the bed and flopped down. He wasn’t sure what else to say so he waited. Serina finished tying her boot and stood up, stretching her stiff muscles again.
“Dead, actually. Well more like a magical coma enforced by a demon.” She grabbed her jacket from the back of the door Patrick had left open and walked into the hallway only stopping to wait for her brother to get over his shock and follow her.
“Dead? Well I’m glad he’s alive and all but how’d that happen?” He asked as he closed her door behind him and started off down the hall. Serina’s smile fell and she felt as if a black hole opened up somewhere in her middle. It threatened to suck her soul into oblivion.
“Vincent.” She muttered as she looked away from her brother.
“Vincent? But… how?” Patrick was blissfully unaware of the circumstances and tragedy Serina had been involved with and she wished she could leave it that way.
“Traded his life for his fathers.” She whispered and gave him a look that said she didn’t want to discuss it further.
“Wow.” Was all he said as they rounded the corner and into the bustling front room.